Michelle Darmody: Baking with seeds and nuts

With every January comes the desire, for many, to undo all of the excesses of the Christmas season. 

Baking may not the first thing on your agenda. With this in mind I have included three recipes that help to add more nuts, seeds and fruit into your diet. A slice of a loaf cake can be a good way to disguise any number of healthy ingredients.

There a wide variety of seeds that you can eat and they add valuable minerals and protein to your diet. The most prevalent edible seeds in our diet are cereals, such as rice, wheat, maize and oats. Technically nuts and legumes such as beans are also seeds, and the coffee that we drink is the ground, roasted seed of the coffea plant. The seeds we eat less regularly but which add greatly to our diet are as pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds.

You can purchase packets of ready-mixed seeds that are handy for sprinkling on porridge or adding a boost to a bowl of granola. I suggested that a seed mix such as this can be used in the blueberry loaf. They give a nice even flavour and added texture.

The combination of pumpkin seeds, wheatgerm and nuts to the second loaf make it a great lunchtime pick-me-up. This loaf will last a few days in an airtight container. The third loaf has a large variety of dried fruit that provides magnesium – there are a lot of fruit sugars so a small slice will probably suffice.

Seed loaf with blueberries

115g of self-raising flour

a pinch of sea salt

50g of soft butter

85g of golden caster sugar

20g of raisins

20g of chopped nuts

30g of mixed seeds

10g of porridge oats

1 egg, lightly beaten

225g of very ripe bananas (weighed with the skin off), mashed

30g of fresh blueberries

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour and salt and rub in the butter until it resembles rough breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar, raisins, nut, seeds and oats. Mix together and make a hollow in the centre.

Add in the egg and mashed banana. Beat all ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the fresh blueberries.

Pour the mixture into your tin and spread it evenly.

Bake for an hour, if a skewer does not come out clean place it back in for five minute intervals.

Cool before removing from tin, then rest on a wire rack.

Courgette, lemon and pumpkin seed loaf

125 mls of light olive oil

80g of brown sugar

2 eggs

350g of courgette, roughly grated

the zest of 2 lemons

150g of spelt flour

150g of plain flour

½ tsp of bread soda

½ tsp of baking powder

50g of golden raisins

60g of pumpkin seeds

10g of wheatgerm

30g of slivered almonds

Line a 2 lb loaf tin and pre heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Whisk the oil, sugar and eggs until some volume has been added. Add the courgettes and lemon zest.

Sieve the soda, baking powder and flours into the mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the raisins, pumpkin seeds, wheatgerm and almonds. Scoop the mixture into the lined loaf tin.

Bake for an hour, test by sticking a skewer into the centre, when it comes out clean you know the cake is baked through.

Dried fruit and hazelnut loaf

100g of sultanas

100g of golden raisins

100g of soft dried figs

100g of chopped dates, any stones removed

50g of dried apricots

300mls of warm, strong tea

1 tbs of brandy

1 egg, lightly whisked

120g of soft brown sugar

200g of self-raising flour

1 tsp of ground nutmeg

1 tbs of natural yogurt

a generous handful of hazelnuts, chopped

2 tbs of poppy seeds

For the best results soak the fruit over night in the tea and brandy until it is soft and plump. Pour the warm tea over the fruit and cover the bowl, set aside until the morning.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Add the egg, sugar, flour, spices, yogurt and nuts to the fruit and mix with a wooden spoon. Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin and flatten it down. Sprinkle the poppy seeds on top and bake for and hour and a half or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin.




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